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One strategy helps overcome presentation anxiety faster than any other I know. It's a simple shift of mindset that causes speakers to forget their nerves and focus on the people who matter most - the audience. Introducing the art of Servant Speaking...
How many speakers are there? Usually one.
Well done. And how many audience members are there? More than one.
So who does it make more sense to focus on - you, the one speaker, or them, the multiple people in the audience?
A servant speaker realizes that they are not the most important person in the room - they are there to service the audience. This simple shift in perspective dramatically decreases presentation anxiety because you focus on more important things than yourself. When you only focus on yourself, you see only your own nerves, instead of the audience feedback which could very well show interest and acknowledgment.
The more you focus on yourself, the less you connect your subject matter to your audience's needs - and the smaller the chance you're giving them what they need. It's a vicious cycle bordering on a self fulfilling prophecy; the more you focus on how nervous you are the more nervous you become.
As a servant speaker, look outside of you to the eager faces wanting to listen and you'll find that your own nerves and presentation anxiety disappear in the process, because you're not giving the negative thoughts any more attention. More on how negative thoughts might affect your speaking here.
Normal public speaking can focus more on taking from the audience:
I need them to listen to me;
I need them to look interested in what I'm saying;
I need them to laugh at my jokes;
I need them to affirm my expertise;
I need them to know how good I am But what about the audience? Servant speaking is about believing "I have something important to give – I’m not only 'taking' from my audience". Anxiety free public speaking is all about giving so that you bring more benefit to your audience:
There are four things you should tell yourself to become an anxiety free servant speaker:
As soon as you forget your anxiety and allow yourself to relax as a speaker, you will do a better job as a speaker. This is because rather than nervously charging through your material you will create space to bring your head up, breathe and connect with your audience. Remember - your audience don't want perfect, or they'd read a scientific journal. They want a human being who is there in the room with them.
The most powerful speakers have a strong belief that their public speaking will bring some kind of benefit to the audience. If you believe firmly in your message, you will have no problem speaking with confidence; because that message is more important than your nerves.
Think about Churchill and Gandhi - two incredibly powerful speakers who faced public speaking anxiety at some stage in their life. But they had missions that were greater than themselves, so by serving the audience their nerves were no longer an issue.
When you give space for your audience to influence your presentation they will be able to get what they want from you, they will enjoy your talk more and you will relax and enjoy your speaking more in turn.
Rather than 'getting through' your material, irrespective of who's in the audience, the servant speaker will ask themselves what your audience most need to hear in a given moment. The more experience you have of different audiences and the more experimental you allow yourself to be - the more your speaking will serve your audience.
The best news of all is that Servant Speaking is the most enjoyable type of speaking. No longer is it all about you doing it right - as a servant speaker, you're surrounded by a whole host of people who are interested in learning together. If you look on speaking as a collaborative process, (where today most of the words just happen to be coming out of your mouth), you leave space to play, to enjoy, to be friends together.
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